Twenty Years Later...

Am I the only one who hates my alarm? No. Do I feel like I am each time I wake up to those cursed church bells? Without a doubt. I know I can't hit snooze today, though I really could use a few more minutes sleep. I have a big case to work on and a trial to get to, as well as practice at the theatre later tonight. Looks like my husband will have to shuttle the kids around.

I get out of bed and write a quick note explaining what needs to be done today with the kids. Thank goodness there's no band or piano today! I take out my dress suit and hang it on the hook in the bathroom. I take a quick shower, get dressed, choke down some too-dry oatmeal, brush my teeth, give the kids a kiss and rush out to my car. Inside, I make sure I have all the materials I need for my case, carefully checking that each convicting piece of evidence is present. I also check that I have my script and a draft of the next chapter in my book. When all is present ands accounted for, I turn on the car and back out of the driveway. I have a long commute ahead of me. See, I live in Midway, in a lovely, large house with turrets, balconies, and secret rooms and passageways. The kids know even more of these than I do, and I spent the first month after we moved in just exploring the house and all it contains. The house is a family thing on my husband's dad's side, recently acquired and not wanted by anyone but us. Well, that suits me just fine. I've had my eye on that place ever since I was twelve and visiting my grandparents up here. I smile at the house; what Grace would say if she wasn't in Africa! We have dreamed for a long time about this place, and now I have it while she is utilizing her new doctor's license. Kate would be incredulous, too, but she is cursed to follow my path, and is currently at law school in California. Max is back at college at BYU after his mission. He never really understood why we girls loved this house so much, so it's fairly easy to imagine what he'd say:

"Great. Wonderful. Fantastic. Anyway, have you heard about that new type of engine they're coming out with? I only wish I'd thought of something like it, then I'd have a house just as big as that behemoth you were describing... Incidentally, who lives there?"

That's Max. His mind is always on his engineering, which he's something of a genius at, if I do say so myself.

By now I'm a mere half hour away. I begin going over the case in my mind, mentally highlighting things in bright, shimmering yellow as I weave my way through traffic. All of a sudden, a clear, soprano voice penetrates my cloud of case thoughts, and I'm going over my lines instead. No, I tell myself. Deal with the higher paying job first, you can tackle that on your way to the theatre. Higher paying, indeed. Apparently I have the potential to be a great actress, I just have about a zillion other engagements, so I only do the ten dollar an hour jobs the theatre in town offers. It's hardly much, but it helps and I love it, so it works.

The case goes well, with me managing to make the sociopath defendant and the multiple reputable witnesses his rich mother scraped up look like fools, but only barely. Man, am I glad for that Mock Trial. I freeze with one foot in my car. That was one heck of a year, eighth grade. Geometry, Mock Trial, Band, Chinese, Musical Theatre... I shake my head to clear it, trying to direct my thoughts back to the immediate dilemma of orienting myself like my character. These childhood thoughts would only pain her, remembering life at thirteen would make her writhe in agony... By the time I arrive at the theatre, I am more my character than I ever have been. Really, it's a good thing I'm a little late, because I am able to hold onto her personality and insights for the practice rather than lose them in a haze of inside jokes and makeup orders. I perform better than I ever have, and the director, Ms. Robertson, a hard person to impress when she's in a good mood, which she's not, actually compliments me. Overall, everything's wonderful, despite the large pile of paperwork on the passenger seat of my car. I'll get it done before I write the next chapter of my book. I pause mid-button. I still haven't named it. Why do I never name them until the end? I shrug and hurry to do up the last button then hurry out of the dressing
room. Another person enters behind me, and I head up to the costume room. I have just passed the steps and am looking over my shoulder when I hear, "Look out!" and my vision is obscured by a rainfall of socks. I laugh as Roy hurries to help me up, apologizing profusely. I tell him its fine and hear laughing behind me. I turn and see the whole cast, freshly changed, guffawing behind me. Lisa, my understudy comes up and steadies herself on me. Through tears of mirth, she says:

"Well, we al knew you'd go in some strange way, but I don't think any of us imagined you would get jumped by socks!"

I laugh along with everyone else, Roy joining in now that he knows I'm not mad. As I walk out the door, still chuckling and fumbling with my keys, a memory suddenly smacks me in the face. Jumped by socks... Jumped by Socs... Eighth grade again! I remember that story so clearly, the wise kids who drew pictures of socks holding switchblades and captioning them "Jumped by Socs" before hanging them on the white board... That was one heck of a story. I wonder if I still have my copy? I bet I do, I've kept just about everything I ever owned. Resolving to search for it after doing legal work and writing a bit, I speed home. (Literally. I'm just lucky that there's a robbery being resolved in a supermarket or I'd have to defend myself in traffic court.) I grab my stuff, rush inside, scarf down some spaghetti, and get to work. The paperwork goes surprisingly fast, and my fingertips hit the keys so fast that I myself can only see a blur as I work on my book. When I'm done typing a chapter, it's eleven a.m. Perfect! I have just enough time to find my copy of The Outsiders before I have to go to bed. I rush up the first few flights of stairs and have my hand on the doorknob of the steps that lead to the attic when I remember something, and I feel myself wilt with disappointment. I may have done wonderfully in rehearsals today, but I still need to practice this one song with a difficult sort of harmony... Oh, and I was so looking forward to looking back over that book. Sighing, I go back downstairs, grab my script, retreat to an empty and isolated room, and begin going over the parts I have the hardest time with.

When I wake up, I don't remember coming up to my bedroom. I'm glad I'm here, though, 'cause I've got to work double-time today to get off of work in time for an early rehearsal/performance. I doubt I'll have time to do anything but my legal work tonight. The Outsiders will have to wait another night. It's waited twenty years, surely another night won't kill it... That's not the question, I think. The question is whether I can wait that long. Next, me being me, I'm reprimanding myself: Stop it. You're totally obsessed with this Outsiders thing. There are far more important things to do than find that teenager book again. You're right, I tell myself, not that you aren't always. I have to put it out of my mind. So I do.

The performance couldn't have gone better. Yeah, I have a veritable mountain of work back at the firm, but I'm still floating on the euphoria performing gives me, so it seems like an anthill at the time. Not so the next morning. My nose is pressed so hard to the grindstone, I'm not sure that anything's left. As long as people don't think I'm related to Voldemort, I can live with that. I smile and give a little laugh at the thought, at the exact moment when my stern, unsmiling supervisor walks over. She glares at me.

"Something funny, Miss Kratz?" she asks, neglecting, as usual, to acknowledge the fact that I'm married.

"Oh, no, miss. I was just remembering how cute Johnny and Allie were in their recent concert."

"Well, stop it! This is a legal office, not a reminiscing club."

"Yes. miss," I say, feeling more down than ever, which is saying something considering how long I've worked at this place. The work itself is great, but the people... They could do with a visit from the fairy of cheerfulness. I need a pick me up, I think. Immediately The Outsiders springs to mind, but I push it away. I'm already swamped without reading that book again, Then again, it is just over a hundred pages long. It wouldn't even take me that long! Why not!? My resolve and happiness strengthened, I make it through the rest of the day without so much as one e-mail war with a colleague. I do some work in the car whenever I'm stopped, and have just a third of it left to do. I finish it after helping the kids with homework and kissing them goodnight, and then it's just a few minutes before I am reading The Outsiders with such vigor that, when I finish, I realize that I have no idea what I just read. I read it again, going a bit slower this time, and a feeling of inspiration and happiness floods me. I quickly check to see that I' off tomorrow and finish my book in one night. It's five a.m. when I finish, but it's worth it. I send it to Alex, a friend of mine who runs a prominent editing and publishing business, snatch a few hours of sleep, then head to the theatre for the pre-performance preparations. The musical is wonderful, and I have hardly ever felt happier than I did after that performance, still thinking of Dally and the other boys and how they helped me... That night, just before I turn in early to prepare for the probably stressful day ahead, I feel an overwhelming sense that I'm about to be published. The next day, on my way to work, I see my book in the front window of a bookstore... Displayed right alongside the true inspiration for my book and, indeed, everything I did that day, The Outsiders.





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